How to Increase Distress Tolerance With DBT Skills

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When faced with a negative situation or crisis, your body tends to develop a flight or fight response. This is a chemical reaction that prepares your body to tolerate the situation.

This crisis can vary from the smallest issue like running late for work, insomnia, or hitting your little toe on the door, to big issues like losing a loved one, getting into a fatal accident, or having a miscarriage.

There are different techniques you can use to increase distress tolerance and one of the most prominent is the Dialectical Behaviour Therapy.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helps people learn healthy ways to cope with distress and crisis, take control of their emotions, and maintain healthy relationships with others.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) focuses on four core skills which are:

Mindfulness, Distress Tolerance, Emotion Regulation, and Interpersonal Skills.

The DBT skill we will focus on in this article is the Distress Tolerance skill.

This article will help you discover how to increase distress tolerance with DBT skills like practicing breathing exercises, engaging in healthy activities, meditation, and keeping your mind busy with intense activities.

Anxiety Therapists in Colorado

Cassondra Chagnon, LPCC

Cassondra Chagnon, LPCC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 481-3518
Meghan Purcell, LPCC

Meghan Purcell, LPCC

Pueblo, Colorado
(719) 696-3439
Sarah Webster, SWC

Sarah Webster, SWC

Colorado
(719) 696-3439
Seth Boughton, SWC

Seth Boughton, SWC

Colorado
(720) 449-4121
Sarah Tapia, LPCC

Sarah Tapia, LPCC

Colorado
(719) 602-1342
Julianna Miller, LPCC

Julianna Miller, LPCC

Aurora, Colorado
(720) 449-4121
Samantha Zavala, LPCC

Samantha Zavala, LPCC

Aurora, Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Jenifer Seas, LCSW

Jenifer Seas, LCSW

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 452-4374
Shannon Hamm, LPC, CCTP

Shannon Hamm, LPC, CCTP

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 452-4374
Maria Roncalli, LPC

Maria Roncalli, LPC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 203-7021
Laura Brinkman, MA, LPCC

Laura Brinkman, MA, LPCC

Aurora, Colorado
(720) 449-4121
Andreea Felea, LPC

Andreea Felea, LPC

Colorado
(719) 602-1342
Tracey Lundy, LCSW

Tracey Lundy, LCSW

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 452-4374
Leigh Harlan, LPC

Leigh Harlan, LPC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 602-1342
Deb Corbitt, LPC

Deb Corbitt, LPC

Colorado
(719) 345-2424

Mastering ACCEPTS

A crisis is an event in life that can never be averted, so instead of expecting a crisis not to happen, why not practice what to do when an unfavorable situation pops up?

ACCEPTS is an acronym for distress tolerance skills to practice when you are in crisis. This acronym will help you remember.

Activities

When faced with a crisis or a painful situation, take your mind off the pain, hurt, or anxiety by engaging in activities.

Whether your boss sent you an email that she wants to have a conversation with you the next day about your work review so far.

Instead of wondering what to expect and dampening your mood with worries, find something to do that will take your mind off the situation.

Take a walk, watch a movie, do some house chores, listen to music, play games, etc.

Contribute

You can also do something nice for someone else or make someone smile. Making others happy tends to have a positive reaction in our minds.

Volunteer, surprise someone by buying them a gift, send a thoughtful and encouraging message, etc.

Compare

Compare your situation with that of others. Look around you for things to be grateful for. Even if you might lose your job, you still have a roof over your head. You have loved ones who care about you.

Think about other people who do not have what you have and compare it to your situation.

This doesn't make your situation less sad and hurtful, however, it will help you see reasons to be grateful and less offended.

Emotions

Do something that triggers your emotional side. Not just sad emotions but also happy emotions, funny emotions, or scary emotions.

You can read an emotion-provoking book, watch scary movies, watch comedies, listen to sad songs, etc.

Push Away

Push the painful situation away for a while. Do not think about it or allow it to cloud your mind. Make a decision not to think about it at the moment.

Engaging in activities can also help you accomplish this. However, ensure you eventually go back to it.

Thoughts

When faced with a crisis, our brains become clouded with negative emotions. When this happens, fill your mind with thoughts that will keep it busy.

Try to remember the lyrics of a song you barely know, read a book, or solve difficult math questions.

Senses

Do something relaxing and soothing. Listen to music and dance, take a shower, eat your favorite meal, or watch your favorite series.




TIPP or Tips on How to Increase Distress Tolerance

When a situation becomes overwhelming, you might want to resort to self-hurting situations or take a drastic step.

One of the ways to combat it is by doing what will change your body chemistry which will also change your mind and behavior.

TIPP is an acronym for tips on how to increase distress tolerance.

Tip Temperature with Ice

One of the signs you are in distress is that your body develops heat from within. This heat can sometimes be a result of anger, fear, or anxiety.

You can reduce the heat intensity by pouring cold water on your face or pressing an ice pack to your face.

Intense Exercise

When your body is revved up, you can engage in intense exercise to take your mind off the situation. Go for a run, a walk, or move heavy boxes around.

Some people go to places where they are allowed to scream (or you can scream into your pillow) and also break things (not in a violent way).

This can help you expend your energy and take your mind off the negative situation.

Paced Breathing

Learn breathing techniques like slowly inhaling and exhaling in successions. Breathe in, breathe out, and pace your breathing.

You can also hold your breath for about 5 seconds and then slowly release it.

Paired Muscle Relaxation

Try this technique by tightening a muscle in your body, like your arm, for up to 7 seconds, then release it.

You will notice your muscles will relax which will also help you relax.

Self-Soothe

Self-soothing involves calming yourself and putting your body in a comfortable or relaxing position.

You can do this by soothing each of your five senses.

  • Go stargazing or visit the beach and stare at the calm ocean (Vision)
  • Listen to your favorite songs or listen to white noise like the sound of birds chirping, crickets at night, the ceiling fan spinning, or waves crashing (Hearing)
  • Spray your home with a fragrance that soothes you or take a bath with a nice scented body wash. You can also get candles and diffusers with an appealing smell (Smell)
  • Cook or order your favorite meal and enjoy it with your favorite drink or wine (Taste)
  • Go to a spa and get a massage or visit the beach or a nearby river and enjoy the cool breeze as you sit under a shade (Touch).
  • Moving your body by dancing to your favorite song or going for a jog can also be another form of self-soothing.

Improve Skill

IMPROVE skill is a technique that helps you know how to increase distress tolerance by replacing your negative emotion with pleasant and positive emotions.

Replace the emotions you are feeling with positive ones by imagining the opposite of the situation you find yourself.

You can imagine that your grades improved after you did some tests and extracurriculars.

You can also imagine that you had a talk with your boss and she was impressed with the work you have done so far.

Instead of looking at the negative aspect, look at your situation from another perspective. What is this situation trying to teach you?

How can you become a better person through this? Was there something you could have done better or something you could have done to avoid this situation?

Find meaning in the crisis.

Find something relaxing to do. Whether it is meditation, taking a shower, watching your favorite show, etc.

If the situation gets too overwhelming, try to focus on one thing. It could be something you find easy to handle at the moment.

Take a vacation. Even if it's not a literal vacation, you can take a walk or visit your favorite place.

Encourage yourself! Go on Pinterest and search for positive affirmations. Say the words aloud to yourself and affirm them.

This will take your mind off the situation and make you see that it will get better.

It will also help you see that you are not what happens to you. It is just a circumstance that will pass away.

Pros and Cons List

When you are faced with a crisis or you are indecisive about a major aspect of your life, write a Pros and Cons list.

This could also help you when you are about to take a step and you are not sure it's the right thing. 

Writing a pros and cons list will help you determine whether you should go ahead. 

Problem-Solving

When faced with problems, it is important to first determine if it is a solvable problem. 

Do you have control over this problem? What can you do to alleviate this problem?

When you have discovered that you can solve the problem, you can begin to take steps to solve it.

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Radical Acceptance

Radical Acceptance is an important step to take after a crisis. Many people like to act as though nothing has happened or as though they don't feel any pain after a tragic event.

However, this does more harm than good because it only prolongs the pain and makes you suffer for a long period of time.

Accepting that something bad has happened and learning to live with it will help you heal faster than when you fail to acknowledge the situation.

Acknowledging the situation will also help you know what to do. If it's a situation you can solve, you can work on it. If it's a situation you can't solve, you can learn to accept it and move on. 

Conclusion

Bad situations are unavoidable and most times they are out of our control. We might not be able to control what happens to us but we can control the most important thing - How we respond.

These distress tolerance skills will help you know how to take charge of your emotions when bad situations arise.

It might feel overwhelming to learn all of these techniques and skills on your own. 

If you are going through any bad situation and you need help handling and controlling your emotions with DBT skills, you can reach out to a DBT therapist or counselor at Overcomers Counseling for help.

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July 13th, 2024

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